Courting History: The Museum of Ashe County History

By Sam Shumate - Special to the Post

Any month is a good time to visit the Museum of Ashe County History in the old court house. The staff and volunteers work hard to maintain interesting as well as educational exhibits.

The Ore Knob exhibit transformed the Register of Deeds vault into a diorama that includes life-sized 19th and 20th century miners and artifacts.

The Virginia Creeper exhibit has held the “most popular” designation since its completion. It is a 30 foot long HO scale model diorama of the railroad passing through Tuckerdale, Lansing, West Jefferson and Todd. Each town is depicted in a different era to give viewers an idea of the changes over time.

Ashe County’s First Century exhibit turned the Register of Deeds office into the “Worth Room.” On display is an 1856 square grand piano on loan from the Worth family, a 19th century carriage and a portrait of Martin Gambill, the “Paul Revere of the south.”

The Moonshine & Music exhibit features a life-sized diorama of a copper pot style still confiscated in a mid-nineteenth century raid. Early Ashe County musicians are also included in the display.

The Mountain Medicine display offers a fascinating look at how we treated illness in the twentieth century. Early medical implements

and pharmaceutical artifacts fill the exhibit. The medical Jones family of Lansing provided much of the material.

The Bare Room showcases some of the furniture that was produced in Ashe County over the years. The transportation of furniture into Ashe County before the advent of the Virginia Creeper was difficult at best. The solution to the problem was to make it locally. Skilled craftsmen produced everything from bureaus to buffets to wardrobes. As a result a thriving furniture industry developed in Ashe County.

The Timber Industry exhibit reminds viewers of the early days of logging in Ashe County. The old growth forests lured timber barons into the mountains. This industry is primarily responsible for bringing in the railroad. The railroad and timber industry created a short-lived economic boom in the county from about 1910 to 1930. So much timber was cut during this time that it is said that local streams were dammed up with sawdust. Once the old growth timber was cut; however, the timber industry quickly waned.

The Native American exhibit takes a look at Ashe County’s earliest inhabitants. No permanent villages have ever been locally excavated; however, it is thought that Native Americans visited the area on a seasonal basis, hunting, fishing and gathering resources. Cherokee, Creek and Shawnee artifacts have been found throughout the county and many are on display.

The Veterans Hall of Honor lists veterans from World War I to Desert Storm.

The Ashe County Sports Hall of Fame is also located in the museum. It honors individuals and teams who have made extraordinary contributions to sportsman traditions in the county. For example one may learn about Montie Weaver, the “Professor,” who was a major league baseball pitcher from 1931 to 1939. He played for the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox.

Other than exhibits, the museum stocks a gift shop with delightful locally made items and literature for those wishing to learn more. They also sponsor programs of interest to locals and tourists alike. Music on the Green will be held September 24 and the Autumn Leaves Festival October 7 from 10AM until 4PM. The festival will feature old heritage demonstrations of spinning, weaving, apple cider making, etc. Antique tractors and steam engines will be on display. There will also be kids programs and traditional music all day.

August, as well as anytime, is the perfect time to check out our Museum of Ashe County History. Who knows, you may even learn something you didn’t know.

By Sam Shumate

Special to the Post

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